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Saturday, 22 September 2018

A View From Another Country: MetalDays 2018 (Review By Rich)

Metaldays Festival 2018

Metaldays is truly an experience and an experience that I recommend all heavy metal maniacs to experience in their lifetime. The first thing that has to be mentioned is the setting which is the beautiful town of Tolmin in the Soca valley in Slovenia. It’s difficult to describe how stunning the scenery is but the town is surrounded by mountains some of which are snow peaked. The festival site itself contains fields, forestry and also has the Soca river running through it which you can swim in (but beware the water is cold!).

 The festival runs for five days Monday to Friday across three stages so there are an astounding amount of bands to see. The Newcomers stage runs for seven days with some bonus bands on the preceding Saturday and Sunday. The bands don’t start until later in the day giving you plenty of time to explore the town, get supplies from the nearby supermarket, swim in the river or simply relax in the sun.

My party arrived at the festival on the Sunday afternoon and after grabbing our wristbands plus some supplies from the supermarket we had the daunting task of setting up camp during a thunderstorm. It was hard not be in awe at the lightning striking the surrounding mountains but at the same time you did not want to be outside in it especially when the rain came falling down. With the campsite all set up and a few drinks down our necks it was time to explore the festival site, get some food and sample a few drinks from the various bars dotted around the festival site.

 The site itself is fairly expansive and due to a lack of signage it was very easy to get lost as I did when the night plunged the site into darkness, I only managed to catch one band on the Newcomers stage and that was Dutch symphonic death metallers Bleeding Gods who despite playing on the smallest stage at the festival brought enormous stage presence and an enormous crowd. I only managed to catch the last two songs of their set so cannot provide a score for their performance. With the festival starting good and proper the following day an early night was had ready for the next five days of metal…


Monday 23rd July

After the rainy Sunday evening the sun came out for Monday morning and thankfully stayed for the remainder of the festival. Following a refreshing morning swim and some food it was time to grab a beverage and head over to the Ian Fraser Lemmy Kilminster stage to watch some bands. Starting the day off for me was the magnificent VUUR (8). I am a massive fan of Anneke Van Giersbergen and the only times I have seen her perform live have been alongside Devin Townsend so it was a joy for me to see her perform her own material live. The majority of the set was taken from VUUR’s sole album In This Moment We Are Free - Cities with songs such as Time - Rotterdam and Days Go By - London sounding magnificent. We were also treated to a brilliant cover of Strange Machines by The Gathering. Throughout the whole set Anneke sounded phenomenal and the band played fantastically.

Next up were Jinjer (8) who are a band I have reviewed an album previously and didn’t impress me very much. Live though it is a different matter as Jinjer put in an incredible performance with their fusion of metalcore, death metal and progressive metal. Highlights from their set included Words Of Wisdom, I Speak Astronomy and Pisces. Frontwoman Tatiana Schmailyuk absolutely commands the stage with her incredibly versatile vocals. Her range is absolutely incredible.

It was time for one of my most anticipated sets of the week by one of my favourite bands the mighty Leprous (8). I have had the pleasure of seeing Leprous perform live multiple times and they never disappoint being one of the finest live acts I have seen. This was no exception with a set covering their last three albums including Bonneville, Stuck, From The Flame, The Price, The Flood and Foe. Frontman Einar Solberg sounded as mesmerising as always and the whole band put in a exceptionally tight performance despite seeming to be suffering in the strong Slovenian sun. There are more songs I would have liked to have heard but the band unfortunately only had a short time on stage.

The next band I managed to see was Carpathian Forest (4) playing on the Bosko Bursac stage. I was very much anticipating this set having never seen Carpathian Forest perform live but wish I hadn’t bothered as the band were clearly drunk as shit especially frontman Nattefrost who could barely get a coherent word out. The band were appallingly sloppy and were just frankly an embarrassment and a huge disappointment. I headed back over to the main stage to catch the majority of Eluveitie (8) who I should have watched from the start as they were magnificent. It had been a while since I had last seen Eluveitie live and the first time since their dramatic lineup change. It has to be said that getting Fabienne Emi as the new singer is a brilliant move as her voice is absolutely incredible. The band performed a great set including songs such as Thousandfold, Quoth The Raven, The Call Of The Mountains before closing with fan favourite Inis Mona.

Headlining the first night were the mighty Behemoth (9) who brought their full show to Metaldays complete with pyrotechnics and theatricality. We were treated to a fantastic set which delved into the Behemoth back catalogue with opener Ov Fire And The Void setting the scene. Plenty of fire and smoke engulfed the stage as the crowd fervently responded to Behemoth classics such as Demigod, Conquer All, Alas Lord Is Upon Me, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Decade Of Therion, Slaves Shall Serve, Chant For Eschaton 2000 and O Father O Satan O Sun. We were treated to two special songs as well the first being a brand new one entitled Wolves Of Siberia which shows great promise for the new album plus a cover of The Cure’s A Forest where the band were joined on stage by Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth. Behemoth showed themselves to be worthy headliners and brought the first night of the festival to a very satisfying close.

Tuesday 24th July

The second full day of the festival involved a lot more running in between stages. Due to the cancellation by Lords Of Black the first band of the day I managed to see was Italian doom merchants Caronte (7) whose huge crushing sound threatened to level the second stage. I had not previously heard any Caronte but was suitably impressed by their performance.

Another band who I am not very familiar with was Pallbearer (8) who played an absolute beauty of a set of emotionally charged doom metal had me absolutely mesmerised and rooted to the spot for its entire duration.

It was over to the main stage for the next band Battle Beast (9) who seriously brought the party to Metaldays. Battle Beast inject a big wedge of pop music into their power metal sound and the audience reacted very positively partying away to tunes such as Straight Through The Heart, Bringer Of Pain, Bastard Sons Of Odin, Black Ninja and Touch In The Night. The band have tremendous energy on stage running around but none more so than frontwoman Noora Louhimo who runs and jumps around the stage yet still manages to sing flawlessly with her powerhouse vocals sounding absolutely incredible.

Back over to the second stage for something more on the violent side of things and suitably delivered by Rotten Sound (8) who played a blistering set of HM-2 charged grind with savage riffs, devastating blastbeats and plenty of groove which is what separates Rotten Sound from the majority of grindcore acts and in my opinion makes them better. It was my first time seeing Rotten Sound live and they definitely did not disappoint.

After a swift walk back to the main stage I managed to catch the last half of Coroner (8) who gave Metaldays a much needed thrashing. Thrash was one genre fairly lacking on the Metaldays lineup so it was nice to see one of the few thrash bands on the bill put in a suitably savage performance and full of classics from their back catalogue such as Masked Jackal, Grin, Reborn Through Hate and Die By My Hand.

I remained at the main stage to catch Ensiferum (8) who managed to absolutely pack out the field with their epic brand of folk metal. There was a definite party atmosphere throughout their hour set ably helped by the fact that most people had been drinking for several hours. It was very much a greatest hits set with songs such as For Those About To Fight For Metal, Twilight Tavern, Token Of Time, Lai Lai Hei and Iron going down an absolute storm with the crowd.

It was finally time for the nights headliners and possibly my most anticipated set of the entire festival. A band I had been listening to for around 15 years and had never had the chance to see live - the German heavy metal legends Accept (10). They played an absolutely flawless set which was definitely worth the 15 year wait with a perfect sound, note perfect performance and a setlist containing all the classics new and old. It’s testament to Accept that their latter day material is just as strong as their classic 80’s material and the set was a nice balance between the two with modern day classics such as Die By The Sword, Pandemic, Stalingrad and Teutonic Terror sitting comfortably alongside Restless And Wild, Princess Of The Dawn, Metal Heart, Balls To The Wall and I’m A Rebel. The entire set was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.

It was back over to the second stage for the final set of the day which was a fiery performance from Watain (8). With all the flames the second stage looked like an inferno which was very suitable for the savagery of Watain’s set with songs off their fantastic new album Trident Wolf Eclipse sitting alongside older numbers such as Devil’s Blood, Malfeitor and Waters Of Ain.

Wednesday 25th July

Day three of Metaldays and although tiredness was starting to set in there was no rest for the wicked. First band of the day was 1000mods (8) who although playing early in the day absolutely commanded the main stage with their groovy stoner rock tunes. Not a band I am very familiar with but one I would 100% watch on stage again in the future.

The next band I watched was over on the second stage and that was old school death metallers Gruesome (7) who played a solid yet fairly unremarkable set of Death inspired death metal. The set was a mix of new songs such as Inhumane and A Waste Of Life played alongside older ones like Dimensions Of Horror and Savage Land. The band brought their set to a close with an awesome cover of Death’s Pull The Plug. A good set but just missing the wow factor.

Next up on the second stage were Swiss black metallers Schammasch (7) who were suitably impressive but their brand of avant-garde metal was difficult to get into and more suited a dark and gloomy stage indoors rather than an outdoor stage in the forest in glorious sunshine.

It was over to the main stage for one of the most crazy and unusual acts of the weekend and that was French genre defying project Igorrr (9). Igorrr incorporate an insane amount of different genres into their sound mixing extreme metal, dubstep, breakcore, classical and French baroque amongst other things. The majority of the instrumentation was pre-recorded and mixed and triggered by Igorrr himself who was backed up on stage by a live drummer and two live vocalists - Laurent Lunoir who handles the extreme vocals and the jaw droppingly awesome Laure Le Prunenec who handles the classical vocals. With all the different genres on display and smashed together in psychotic style Igorrr are a massive head fuck of a band but the on stage performance was simply sublime and truly memorable.

Next up on the main stage were Soulfly (7) who performed their groove thrash attack to a huge crowd. Kicking things off with the ferocious Frontlines the band ploughed through staples from their back catalogue such as Prophecy, Blood Fire War Hate, Rise Of The Fallen and Back To The Primitive. New song The Summoning sat well with the audience and showed promise for the new album.

Headlining the main stage this evening were Canadian death metal masters Kataklysm (9). Kataklysm are a band who have never gained a massive following in the UK usually playing small clubs whenever they tour but over in mainland Europe it is a whole different story as Kataklysm had one of the largest and most enthusiastic audiences of the entire festival. It was fantastic to see Kataklysm command such a large crowd and play easily the finest set I’ve ever seen them play.

 The band had huge circle pits, walls of death and crowd surfers galore to accompany crushing death metal anthems such as Like Angels Weeping (The Dark), As I Slither, Push The Venom, In Shadows & Dust and Crippled & Broken, Songs off new album Meditations such as Guillotine and Narcissist also went down a storm with the fervent metal hungry crowd. Kataklysm played easily one of the best sets of the entire festival and proved they are more than worthy to fill a headlining slot.

It was back over to the second stage for the final band of the day Austrian blackened death metal horde Belphegor (6) who brought the day to a bit of a disappointing end. The band had the longest intro tape which tested the patience of a lot of the crowd and when the band hit the stage the band sounded flat and lifeless. Too much was played off latest album Totenritual which whilst a good album fans were hoping for more from the back catalogue. Things did pick up when older songs such as Hell’s Ambassador - Belphegor, Stigma Diabolicum and Lucifer Incestus but the band seemed to be uninterested and just going through the motions.

Thursday 26th July

I had started feeling unwell from the Thursday onwards so unfortunately didn’t get to the stages as early as I would have liked. I managed to get to the second stage to catch the end of the set by death metal pioneers Master but didn’t see enough to justify scoring the band. I remained at the second stage to catch another of the festival highlights which was New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry (9). This band has been making big waves of late due to their young age plus their unique incorporation of the Te Reo Māori language into their music. The hype though seems more than justified as the band put on an absolutely jaw dropping performance. The music is a mix of groove and thrash metal and whilst fairly simplistic it is devastatingly effective and it is impossible to resist the urge to bang your head along. The Te Reo Māori language mixed with aggressive metal riffs is such a winning combination and it really pumps and psyches you up. Alien Weaponry left the stage leaving an audience hungry for more.

I stuck around at the second stage to catch a band who have been on the line up of many festivals I have attended but have always clashed with someone else so this time it was time to give Wiegedood (8) a chance. Black metal is a difficult genre to get right at festivals due to so much of it being based on atmosphere but despite performing in a sunny forested area Wiegedood managed to perform a brilliant set and also maintain the atmosphere of a black metal show. Highlight for me was the fantastic title track of their latest album De Doden Hebben Het Goed III.

It was time for some good old classic rock ably provided by the fantastic Black Star Riders (8) who performed an energetic and particularly loud set. The band played a nice mix of songs from their three albums including All Hell Breaks Loose, Heavy Fire, Soldierstown and Bound For Glory. Of course having a certain Scott Gorman in your ranks you get the obligatory Thin Lizzy covers with Jailbreak and The Boys Are Back In Town going down a storm with the festival crowd.

The main stage arena was filling up nicely in anticipation of the nights headliners which meant that Hatebreed (7) played to a very sizeable audience. Hatebreed are one of those bands I find fairly monotonous on their albums but live are absolutely brilliant. It could be I was getting tired or the fact I wasn’t feeling 100% but I didn’t enjoy Hatebreed as much as I have previously. Another factor could be this was the longest set I have seen them play and an hour of fairly repetitive hardcore may have tested by patience. The band played a great set taking songs from their entire back catalogue including As Diehard As They Come, Live For This, Last Breath, Tear It Down, I Will Be Heard and Destroy Everything. It was a good set but I think I was feeling too burnt out to appreciate it plus I was saving my energy for the headliners…

Headlining the main stage and the main headliner of the whole festival were the legendary Judas Priest (10). The arena was absolutely jam packed for the metal gods and the excitement in the air was electric as Black Sabbath’s War Pigs came blasting out of the speakers. What followed was a fantastic set with a bit of something for everyone - a nice mix of new material, Judas Priest set staples plus a few more obscure ones for the hardcore Priest fans. The band kicked off with the title track from stunning new album Firepower and followed it with an all you can eat platter of heavy metal deliciousness including Grinder, Sinner, Lightning Strike, Bloodstone, Saints In Hell, Turbo Lover, Freewheel Burning, Hell Bent For Leather before the main set was brought to a close with the crushing ferocity of Painkiller.

 The band returned for an encore of material off the classic British Steel album with Metal Gods, Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight prompting a huge singalong from the audience. The band performed brilliantly with Richie Faulkner performing fretboard pyrotechnics whilst Andy Sneap did a more than admirable job standing in for Glen Tipton. The metal god himself Rob Halford despite being 67 years old sounded absolutely incredible with his voice sounding like a man less than half his age. Judas Priest showed exactly why they are legends bringing the main stage to a close in epic fashion. The only drawback is I enjoyed it so much that it seemed over way too quickly.

Friday 27th July

Unfortunately I felt even more unwell on the Friday morning and it didn’t improve throughout the day so I didn’t end up seeing a single band instead wallowing in misery and self pity in the campsite. There wasn’t loads I really wanted to see on the final day but I did miss sets by the likes of Demonical, Goatwhore, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Primordial, Municipal Waste and Cannibal Corpse.

Overall despite a disappointingly ill end to the festival I fully enjoyed my Metaldays experience and highly recommend it to anyone. It’s like having a holiday and attending a festival in one. I for one will definitely be returning in 2019 in improved health and enjoying the full experience.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Reviews: Alter Bridge, Alkaline Trio, Liar Thief Bandit, Ravenlight (Reviews By Alex & Paul H)

Alter Bridge: Live at the Royal Albert Hall W/The Parallax Orchestra (Napalm Records)

Evolving from post-grunge band to theatrical metal outfit, Alter Bridge have always been unafraid to be ambitious. This live album recording just that by incorporating songs from their discography into a phenomenal set at the Royal Albert Hall, accompanied by a full Orchestra, a move which makes perfect sense considering the evolution of each album. Blackbird proved staying power with powerful anthemic choruses, and sweeping emotional moments. ABIII mastered a darker sound, with introspective lyricism. Fortress proved some of their most visceral and commanding work yet, while The Last Hero incorporated theatrical and symphonic ideas into their style. Myles Kennedy’s stunning vocal range and Mark Tremonti’s signature guitar stylings, both playing off the musical expertise of the Parallax Orchestra, only adds to the epic atmosphere that these songs embody.

None of the live ferocity which Alter Bridge bring to traditional live settings is lost. Addicted To Pain, The Writing On The Wall and Cry Of Achilles to name only a few, are performed with the same vigour as those who have seen this band live, except galloping perfectly in time with the rhythm section are is a chorus of stringed instruments, and providing atmosphere to the suspenseful moments is a company of brass instruments. We even see the band taking the opportunity to perform some live rarities, including The End Is Here and Words Darker Than Their Wings. Perhaps the instants where this interplay is played out best however, is on the ballads. Before Tomorrow Comes is transformed splendidly from a pleasant rock tune, to a joyous and euphoric anthem. Wonderful Life and Watch Over You which are played side by side in what you can only imagine must have been a particularly moving moment for the audience have their subdued beauty complemented yet not overwhelmed. Even Blackbird, one of my personal favourite songs, has its sincere emotionality and lyricism about moving on or losing a loved one, made to paint a yet more vivid picture, and flies us from through each sombre or determined moments in that songs progression.

Of course, I have no doubt that there are some moments in which the magnificence of the show is lost on the production, no live recording is going to replicate the experience of going to a concert. Yet, we have all heard it argued that metal is the closest music musically to orchestral or classical music. While that’s a debate for another day, shows like the one remembered here lend the idea some accuracy, by carrying a commanding atmosphere, and carrying emotion as well as loudness. 8/10

Alkaline Trio: Is This Thing Cursed? (Epitaph Records)

Alkaline Trio occupy a musical space also laid claim to by the Offspring or Green Day, balancing traditional, frenetic, Ramones style punk, while also embodying some of that pop-punk immaturity, enjoyed as a near-generation spanning guilty pleasure. In fact, frontman Matt Skiba, has showed his allegiance to both, collaborating with members of NOFX and BADCOP-BADCOP, for the low-budget punk musical Home Street Home, and more notably becoming a full-time member of Blink-182. ‘Trio themselves though are returning to that mid-way point after spending a few albums dabbling in darker and less carefree waters, proving a welcome decision. With thirteen songs and a running length of just over half an hour, Is This Thing Cursed? is full of short, sharp an catchy punk songs which don’t dump the personal or political lyricism of the past few records. 

Tricking you for a moment into thinking it might be emulating the musical direction of them, the opening title track begins with a pretty piano melody, before the familiar sound of a bouncy rhythm section, simple yet striking four chord riffing and back and forth singing exchanges kick in. "Maybe it’s some kind of spell that I’ve been living under, collecting coins found near a wishing well’" Skiba sings here, using his penchant for mythic terms of phrase to allude to his drinking problems Blackbird and Demon Division immediately follow, proving effective for making the heart race, the later declaring ‘’you’re not in love your just insane’’ humorously, yet with a large nod to the more serious topics of fear and paranoia. Little Help? and Pale Blue Ribbon are more traditional, paying homage to the strong folk tradition in their genre, seeing our frontman adopt a familiar snarl, as if playing a character. 

 Owing more so to Skiba's time in a musical, Goodbye Fire Island and Throw Me To The Lions use light and shade to create a sentimental feel. Indeed, Stay and Krystalline are two songs relying on a more stripped down composition, to carry emotion, proving again that you don’t need a doctorate in musical theory to be a great songwriter. I find Skiba's knack for taking seemingly tiresome concepts like romance or alcohol and transforming them into something deliciously dark intriguing, yet if we are to acknowledge how lyricism walks hand in hand with the playing, I can only admire the instrumental interplay here. No one is showing off, but are instead coming together to a sound which is crisp and warm, yet bursting with attitude. 7/10

Liar Thief Bandit: Straight Ahead (7Hard)

Liar Thief Bandit have a sound which is about as forthright and fiery as the name suggests. A rock n roll so imbued with huge choruses and distinctive guitar licks, that even a massive music snob like me, can’t help resist. Just something about the no frills work hard play hard attitude of Fire It Up, the frantic and rebellious sting of Head Down, or the cheeky boldness of Liquor And Poker embodies a charm so closely associated with a local music scenes, and traditional bluesy traits, which punks and meatheads alike can’t help but enjoy for the honesty and straightforward sound. 

Production, courtesy of Gustav Brunn, is incredibly polished, a trait which stands out especially on songs like I Stand Corrected and The Good Ones. Although this may ever so slightly take away from some of the raw liveness associated with acts as Motörhead and AC/DC, which these musicians undeniably take influence from, it’s a style which helps to bring out the hooks in the guitar exchanges and harmonies, while still keeping the crunch and fierceness firmly upfront. Overall, Straight Ahead gets you in a good mood with its catchiness, down-to earth lyricism and kind-hearted assertiveness. Sometimes that’s all great rock music needs. 7/10

Ravenlight: End Of The World (Self Released)

It’s no secret that I struggle with symphonic metal. I’ve dabbled, tasting the offerings of Within Temptation, Nightwish, Delain and Epica, but after a while I’m afraid I get a bit bored and in need of a new rush to stimulate me. Ravenlight is a two-piece outfit from Northern Ireland who formed in January 2018. This four-track EP described as the core pillars of the band is the result of their hard work since their formation. All the music is played by John Connor, whilst Rebecca Feeney provides the operatic vocals. Feeney’s high-pitched operatic vocal is an acquired taste, and one that doesn’t always work for me. The music is a typical mix of fast paced drumming, heavy synths harmonies and crashing guitar riffs.

At least on the rousing The Wild Hunt Feeney lowers the range a little and makes it much more listenable than opener Words Unspoken. The title track contains some of the most irritating keyboard work I’ve heard in years, and it’s at this stage that the weakness of a multi-instrumental musician surfaces. It’s hurried power metal, racing unnecessarily whilst being completely devoid of feeling and passion. And don’t get me started on the dull, plodding final track, Where The Stars Grow. I wish Ravenlight every success. I really do. However, if this is the end of the world, then kill me now. 4/10

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Reviews: Metal Allegiance, Freak Kitchen, Chthonic, Four Seconds Ago (Reviews By Paul H)

Metal Allegiance: Vol II Power Drunk Majesty (Nuclear Blast)

The success of the debut release from this admittedly mighty supergroup in 2015 earned an 8/10 from me. Live I wasn’t that bothered, only watching a bit of their appearance at Bloodstock but with the follow up release containing several of my favourite vocalists, this was an album that I was keen to listen to. I suppose it’s unsurprising that the tracks on Vol II tend to fit the vocalists rather than the other way round. Take Mother Of Sin for example. What else would you expect from Overkill’s Bobby Blitz than a stomping thrashing beast that takes no prisoners and allows Blitz to deliver his trademark scream? Terminal Illusion features Accept frontman Mark Tornillo and yeah, it sounds like a track of the next Accept album. Now, that’s no bad thing, as Accept fucking rule and I love his gravel-soaked delivery. It’s a thunderous track, with Mike Portnoy, for it is he on the drum stool once more battering the shit out of his kit.

King With A Paper Crown sees Alex Skolnick riffing for his life, with Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg delivering in the only way he can, gruffly. By far and away the best track on the album however, is the anthemic Voodoo Of The Godsend. Tribal drum patterns and down tuned guitar make way for Soulfly’s Max Cavalera who gives a stellar performance. In fact, this would fit perfectly on the forthcoming Ritual album. Elsewhere we have Troy Sanders from Mastodon and ‘house’ vocalist, Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda who not only delivers strongly on Impulse Control but gives his all on Power Drunk Majesty Part I before Floor Jansen adds a bit of feminine style to Part II. With Dave Ellefson and Mark Menghi superb in their execution alongside Skolnick and Portnoy, the musicianship is unsurprisingly first rate. This is an enjoyable release which allows all those involved to let rip. 8/10

Freak Kitchen: Confusion To The Enemy (Thunderstruck Productions)

One of the joys of writing for Musipedia of Metal is the range of music you are exposed to. Freak Kitchen is a typical example. A band I’d never heard before, they formed in Gothenburg in 1992 by guitarist Mattias ‘Ia’ Eklundh, Freak Kitchen soon earned a reputation for their ‘corny heavy pop rock Latin world jazz avant garde metal blues straight from hell’and Eklundh was in high-demand, with his guitar playing featuring on albums by Soilwork, Evergrey, Bumblefoot (Sons Of Apollo/Guns N Roses), Jonas Hellborg, amongst others. 

Album number nine reflects the band’s singular vision which has been a constant on all their albums. Citing influences as diverse as Dean Martin to Slayer, Kiss to Zappa and Indian Carnatic music, approaching Confusion To The Enemy requires an open mind. It is certainly as promised: a wide-reaching, experimental/progressive/metal smorgasbord. From the opening comedy skit of Morons, the Electric Six style Alone With My Phone, through to the mellow sentimentality of By The Weeping Willow, the thumping title track and the jazz fused The Era Of Anxiety, Eklundh along with Christer Hysén (bass/vocals) and drummer Björn Fryklund provide one of the more interesting and eclectic albums of 2018. Definitely worth checking out. 8/10

Chthonic: Battlefields Of Asura (Century Media)

I’ve seen Taiwanese black metal icons Chthonic twice live. Once at BOA in 2012 and supporting Satyricon at the Limelight in Belfast in 2013. Both times I was distinctly unimpressed. Battlefields Of Asura is their eighth album and their first since 2013’s Bu-Tik. In the intervening five years the band have focused on domestic issues, raising families and in the case of frontman Freddy Lim, who is one of the most principled and right on people in metal, forming a new political party and being elected to the Taiwanese parliament. Kudos to him for that achievement. 

However, despite that, and the presence of Randy Blythe and Denise Ho, iconic freedom fighter and singer from Hong Kong, this is an album I really struggled with. I love black metal but the vocals on this release are just appalling. I’m fully in favour of the concepts that run through the 11 songs on the album, depicting the adventure of deities in Taiwan carrying messages about resistance, freedom and fraternity. Musically there is much to be impressed about, with the synth work mixing neatly with the frantic blast beats and tremolo picking but I’m sorry, the vocals just destroy it. 5/10

Four Seconds Ago: The Vacancy (3 Dot Recordings)

The combination of Periphery guitarists Jake Bowen and Misha Mansoor, The Vacancy is the debut release on 3Dot Recordings, the label devised by the whole of Periphery. It’s fair to say that this is far away from our usual fare, with organic electronics, analog synths, lush guitars and ethereal vocals layered through 50 minutes of electronic music. The downtempo dreamscapes intertwin perfectly on an album which provides numerous calming tranquil moments, programming has never been particularly interesting or attractive but there are moments on this release which sweep over you in waves. Galaxy and Bloodfrenzy immediately catch the ear, the ambient sounds combining strongly. The album culminates with the title track, a seven-minute piece which explodes with high tempo in mid-section and which also features Axel Mansoor on additional vocals. Whilst I’m still not taken with the whole electronic music field, this is ideal for calm, relaxation as well as helping with insomnia. 7/10

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Sikth (Review By L'Angelo Mysterioso)

Sikth, Loathe, Malum Sky, The Globe Cardiff

A warm but rainy Sunday evening sees some eager prog and tech metal fans queue up early, eagerly awaiting entry to the well established, 350 cap ‘Globe’ in Cardiff.

Malum Sky (7) start the evening off with their mix of classic and contemporary prog metal. With 100 people through the door at this point means at first, the crowd is a little still but as the band power through their riff catalogue, reminding me of Dream Theater, Gojira, Tool and Textures, all at the same time, the crowd warms up to them as their rather outgoing front man boogies through the powerful instrumental sections. They’re the kind of band a young metal fan could take their dad to and he’d also enjoy them.

There’s no denying the band are skilled musicians but at times, things seem a little forced and don’t always flow. The more mainstream members of the crowd struggle to follow some parts of songs but as more people flood in from the rain, the room warms up and starts to move in and out of time with the band. Their applause at the end of the set is more than any local metal band the venue has seen for a long time. Overall, Malum Sky perform a technically proficient set with an intriguing front man making up for the rest of the band’s static (at times) stage presence while they nail their hard parts.

Up next, Loathe (9) set up with a good portion of the crowd eager for them to start. Sound checking and tech-checking in the dark, the mysterious five piece prepare themselves. Then it starts. Eerie sounds and visuals, dense grooves and dark melodies. The room instantly begins to move to their perfect blend of hardcore, deathcore and metalcore. Grooves, tempos and time signatures change with ease and the band are clearly having fun, being able to play the difficult material almost album perfect. As the set continues, pits start and the frontman, Kadeem France, has the crowd in his hands as they obey his every word. The 4 piece rhythm section beside and behind him power through the thickest sounding riffs to emotional soundscapes in what can only be described as an attack on all the senses. But one that leaves you wondering how and wanting more. However, despite all of the above, the band are humble. Thankful to be in the room with us all and thankful to the opener and headliner for helping them put together a fantastic evening so far.

The room clears down for cool down and cigarette breaks as Loathe load out and Sikth (9) load in. There’s no air of mystery surrounding Sikth. The crowd start to come back in and know exactly what they’re about to get. The band don’t shy away from testing their gear as the drummer, Dan Foord, gives the OK and the house lights start to dim. However, as the band kick off with their first song, it’s apparent they’re a man down. Guitarist ‘Pin’ is not with them and at first, you can really tell.
 
The band muddle through their first song to an overwhelming response. Clearly happy to be back after such a long time the dual front man approach is one of the few that works well as they hype the crowd up for more of their back catalogue. By the 4th track, the band’s sound finally tears through you. You’re hearing it exactly as it’s intended. Bass through your chest, tapping and dissonance over the top of shrieks and shrills and crushing riffs emphasising just how heavy they are, and all this while a man down. The crowd enjoys the good mix of old and recent material moshing to almost every song, singing along where they can and headbanging, air guitaring or just smiling in disbelief at the tightness of the band.

The band were ahead of their time when they released their first album 15 years ago. Yet there were people there that would have only discovered them this year and as such the crowd varies from 16-45 but this doesn’t stop everyone in the room coming together and appreciating a band truly at the top of their game. The crowd were left in disbelief at the range of textures throughout their set, playing favourites and a couple we just didn’t expect but ultimately how they didn’t disappoint in performance, despite being one of the most technical bands out there. 

A View From The Back Of The Room: BMF 666 Charity Gig Pontypool

BMF 666 Charity Gig: Isolation, Sepulchre & Eulogy, The Dragonflli, Pontypool

The second Bloodstock Metal Forum charity evening of the year was a slightly more muted affair than the previous one at Fuel Rock Club. This time the action took place at The Dragonflli in Pontypool, I bit further away than Cardiff centre but in true troubadour style we made our way against the adversity of a broken vehicle to the venue to support a glut of local talent. Upon arrival we were informed that Sounds Of Insane Music wasn't performing so there was only three acts playing this evening however the atmosphere was warm with everyone pulling together to raise as much money for Hope GB (Local Autism Charity) as possible. With an alcohol free Budweiser in hand (seriously this is great beer, sweet and moreish) it was time for the night to begin.

First up on the stage were Eulogy (7) a groove laden trio that did a stock in trade with stoner influence rock. Drawing similarities to Pig Irön (especially vocally) they rocked away with the crowd bobbing along nicely to the fat riffs. A slightly ropey start and a complete lack of lead guitar gave way to a more entertaining final third of the set where Neil's voice grew into a Mark Tornillo styled bellow and the band eased into a groove cracking jokes about the size of the crowd (it was still early) before finishing with a bang. Nothing like a bit of hard rocking to get the night off to a strong start, it was an easy way to kick things off saving the heavy for later.

As far as the next band on stage were concerned there is a simple question to ask. Do you like Slayer and Kreator? Well good because so do Swansea death thrashers Sepulchre (8), expanded to a four piece since I last saw them adding guitarist Dan Yeoman and bassist Ashley Quinton to the founding duo of Darren Evans vocal/guitar and drummer Aimee Coppola. The addition of the second guitar is pretty vital to their sound it's given them a much more vibrant and aggressive style meaning the riffs snarl as much as Darren's death metal vocal. He's an excellent frontman bare chested and headbanging with all and sundry (the wonders of a guitar wireless system) the major focal point while the remaining three members lock in for serious aggression. Tracks such as Dreadnought, Slave Psychosis and Betrayed By God were delivered with venom and got those who were straggling in the bar into the performance room to throwdown. It was injection of pace the night needed with the room filling during their set. It was great to see this band live again as they always impress but now they seem more ferocious than before.

Finally it was time to add a little theatricality to the evening with the headliners for the evening Isolation (7). Curiously the look of the band totally betrays their sound, with those on the instruments decked out in orange prison overalls and a corpse painted frontman arrived in a straight jacket and leather Lecter mask. Those expecting King Diamond, Cradle Of Filth or even Alice Cooper though were gravely mistaken as Isolation have a sound much more in tune with Ghost, it's NWOBHM styled melodic metal ripe with bouncy riffs, clean solos and horror lyrics. The gravelly vocals meant it was more Di'Anno than Dickinson but the songs were pretty decent although a cover of Breaking The Law wasn't totally needed but it's a Saturday night so sometime a singalong is just what the (mad) doctor ordered.

All in all it was another successful night from Jenny Lou and Craig of the BMF (South Wales Branch) who organised the show. They made £190 for Hope GB and got a lot of local bands a new audience. The next BMF outing is at Easter next year and is already looking to be a cracker with Witch Tripper headlining. Good work to all involved! Can't wait to do it again!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Sanguine (Review By Alex)

Sanguine, Crawlblind, In Which It Buns & Trep, Fuel Rock Club

Sanguine has been cultivating an impressive following since the release of their self-titled album in 2012. Their style of forceful alt metal has allowed them the opportunity to work with a few high profile names, ranging from Megadeth, serving as main support for Dave Mustaine and co. at their 2012 London Shows, to Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden, contributing backing vocals for his side project, Primal Rock Rebellion. Tonight though, they are playing to a small audience of dedicated Welsh fans in Cardiff's Fuel Rock Club, and are overjoyed to be doing so, as singer Tarin Kerry makes clear when she declares "we love playing to you guys, some of our craziest fans gigs are in these small venues". If one thing is for certain from the audience - made up of both friendly and outgoing regulars to Womandy Streets live music scene, and enthusiastic fans here to see the main act they determined to prove her absolutely right!

Let’s not forget the support acts, as they certainly do not warrant forgetting. First up are locals, Trep (8). Their audience is still decidedly small, yet those who do get down early to see them are impressed by the noise coming from their powerful three-part drum, guitar, and 8-string bass combo, as made clear by a few complimentary words by each of the following acts. Most importantly, it is absolutely clear that they are having a great time playing, joking between themselves and commanding the small stage with a passionate presence. Theirs is a more traditional style of rock, bringing together elements of hook-laden thrash, with melody and respect for the classics. "We aren’t the heaviest band on today, the three others are way more brutal than us" jokes vocalist and guitarist Rhys Evans. While they are right that tonight is a very mixed booking, their lack of unfiltered aggression does not mean they can’t get the night off to an excellent start and make themselves stand out in the memories of onlookers. Undoubtedly an act to look out for as they tour the local rock bars, and release their first EP.

"We are In Which It Burns, and all our songs are about things I hate" bellows frontman Wayne Mayhew as his band take to the stage. Sure enough, he addresses the growing crowd frequently, introducing songs about universally hated subjects – Racism, Hitler, annoying supermarket staff - an effort proving good-humored, rather than preachy. All the anger in the music stood out as well, as blasting drum beats pound their way throughout the songs, guitars viscerally crunched, and vocals were kept to a low, sinister growl. Admittedly, probably owing to the difference in tone between both the last band and what I’d heard of the headliners, I was not sure what to think as they began playing their style of death metal. However, as the set went on I picked out the subtleties and arrangements in their music. Audience members had the same experience I find as feet began to stamp, heads began to nod. A sense of vigour felt alive in the room by the time the In Which it Buns (7) had finished.

Crawlblind (7) is the second to last act of the night and act as a brilliant warm up for the headliners. The most notable thing about their music is the energy it amplifies, combining the distortion-laden instrumentation of funk metal, the synthesised and melodic elements of alt-rock and the vocal prowess of aggressive metalcore. Unlike the other bands performing tonight, these do not so much grasp attention by directly addressing the audience. In fact, if I have any criticism here it is that the thirty-minute set went by incredibly quickly in a blur of noise, not leaving much time for subtlety or anticipation. Rather, by commanding all the empty space around them and thrashing around both onstage and offstage, they provoke the first fully-fledged mosh pits of the night. Adding to the carnage, of course, is the strobe lighting, which adds to the fast-paced feel, and makes for an excellent spectacle all things considered. Our main support acts set may have been a frenzy of dynamism and volume, yet they put on a show and amped up the excitement for our headliners.

Finally, it is time for the main act of the night. Sanguine (8) greet a packed room of fans who, despite being suitably warmed up by the more than impressive support acts, have been waiting to hear them play their impassioned style of rock. To those who have not heard anything from this band before, it combines everything we have seen from the acts up to this point. There are huge, tasty riffs with a whole load of catchiness. There are singalong melodies and chants, as well as guttural growls, and moments owing strongly to metal.

Keeping the audience hooked with a lot of opportunities for participation, both band and fans feeding off each other’s enjoyment. In their allotted set time, they tear through songs from their self-titled album, their 2016 release, Black Sheep, as well as one new song and an unexpected cover of Loyalty by fellow alt-rockers, American Head Charge, all the time keeping the audience in check for the slower moments and letting them let loose for the heavier ones. One of the best moments comes when Kerry ensures everyone can have their fun by breaking up some undue aggression in the moshing, with enough sense of humour, not to do away with the exciting and colourful vibes, now fully embraced by everyone in the room. 

True, the number of dedicated fans present helped in cultivating this atmosphere, yet it is one enjoyed by even new fans, like me. A night worth remembering.

Reviews: Uriah Heep, Deicide, Aborted, The Crawling (Reviews By Paul H & Sean)

Uriah Heep: Living The Dream (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]

In an astonishing career spanning several decades, Uriah Heep continue to release quality hard rock. From their formation in 1970 with debut Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble, to their latest and 25th album Living The Dream, Mick Box and co have sold over 40 million albums, earning them every right to be called legends. Box may be the only original member of the band, but that detracts little with vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboard player Phil Lanzon both firmly anchored in the band since 1986, drummer Russell Gilbrook occupying the drum stool since 2007 and bassist Davey Rimmer now over five years in. This is Heep’s first album since 2014’s Outsider and it sits very much in the melodic rock camp. The opening three tracks, single Grazed By HeavenLiving The Dream and Take Away My Soul are all dominated by Lanzon’s thick keyboards and Shaw’s superb clean vocals.

Grazed By Heaven fires the first taste of Lanzon’s keys, but don’t think that Box is taking a back seat as he fires back some sharp guitar work. Take Away My Soul is has a 70s prog sound but as the album progresses the unmistakable comparison is with fellow 70s hard rockers Deep Purple. Rocks In The Road for example, an eight minute epic that builds dramatically, would sit comfortably amongst latter day Purple albums, and it is not impossible to draw similarities between Purple’s Don Airey and Lanzon, both with a rich, warm and fluid keyboard style. Similarly, there is plenty of guitar and keyboard interplay between Box and Lanzon, just as you would expect with Steve Morse and Airey.

There are also huge likenesses with Shaw and Ian Gillan in their vocal style. Now that, in my book is a good thing, and whilst Purple looms large, this is definitely a Uriah Heep album. With a real 70s feel, including the quality of the lyrics, see Goodbye To Innocence as an example, this is a solid hard rock album, perfectly delivered. Whilst it may not impress the youngsters, this is an old school album with a fresh new feel. 8/10

Deicide: Overtures Of Blasphemy (Century Media) [Sean]

Y’know, sometimes I just crave a good ‘ol steak dinner. No muckin’ about, just medium rare meat (Surely rare? - Dinner Editor), a mountain of spuds and lashings of good ‘ol gravy. I think it’s fair to say that Florida legends Deicide are very much the “steak dinner” variety of death metal, you know exactly what you’re getting and would be a downright eejit for expecting otherwise. Aside from the melodic renaissance spawned by The Stench Of Redemption (RIP Mr.Santolla), there’s been only subtle tweaking to the tried and true hearty blasphemies of Papa Glen’n’Steve. Completed by guitarist Kevin Quirion (Order Of Ennead, excellent btw) and new axeman, Mark English (Monstrosity, also excellent), does new album Overtures Of Blasphemy deliver the goods? Put it this way; some old dogs don’t need new tricks. Especially when they can still bite your face off.

Overtures Of Evil can be regarded as an album of two parts, ye olde Deicide and post Hoffman Deicide. Opener One With Satan is trademark Deicide, pure and simple. Tremolo riffs! Ripping solos! Steve Asheim’s relentless blastbeats and Glen Benton’s ageless roar! This is pure fucking Deicide, what more could you want? Crucified Souls Of Salvation and Flesh, Power, Dominion offers up more thuggish basting that the Floridian heathens have perfected over the decades. Excommunicated injects a bit of thrash and Anointed In Blood chugs with wanton abandon but the core remains unchanged.

Crawled From The Shadows displays the more melodic aspects that have become a part of the onslaught in recent years, injecting some youthful vigour into the already well oiled machine. One could attribute the subtle shifts here to guitarist Kevin Quirion, shades of his previous work fitting comfortably within the overall brutish oeuvre that is Overtures Of Blasphemy. Of course, new guitarist Mark English’s input cannot be discounted either, whose dextrous neoclassical cadenzas soar with aplomb. This is revisited again on Compliments Of Christ, melody seamlessly married with brutality to great effect.

Look, this is Deicide and Overtures Of Blasphemy is a solid album and a reminder that Deicide still mean business. Could things be shaken up a wee bit more? Probably but that’s not what I came here for, nor what Deicide are all about. After 30 years of sticking to their guns, you can be damn well sure that they’ll be still be sticking to ‘em! It doesn’t differ greatly from it’s predecessor In The Minds Of Evil (TOO CLEAN, SUECOF!) but does it have to? We live on a sorry lump of blue’n’green in constant socio-economic flux, so be thankful that we can still bank on the few certainties in this life. Deicide play no-frills ferocious death metal, the Hoffman’s ain’t coming back (get over it), religion is still fucking terrible and Deicide will hate it’s guts till we’re swallowed by the void. Or nuclear fire, depends which one comes first. 7/10

Aborted: TerrorVision (Century Media) [Paul]

I remember the last time I saw Aborted at The Fleece. A 40-minute opening slot for Kataklysm at The Fleece in Bristol in 2016. Hanging onto one of the numerous pillars that are staged around the venue, it was the equivalent of a death metal wind tunnel. Numerous punters flew past me, foolish enough to think they could move through the venue relying on gravity alone. Fast forward two years and the same thing happened again. Only this time in my study as the delicate intro of Lasciate Ogne Speranza gave way to the monstrous title track. This is vicious stuff. The follow up to 2016’s Retrogore, Aborted have shifted slightly in terms of subject matter. Vocalist Sven 'Svencho' de Caluwé has opted to use 80s horror movies as a lens into what’s happening in the world today. 

He stated “This record is quite different from any we have done before. It is, more or less, about what is going on with the world right now, all in Aborted sauce obviously. There is a deeper meaning, layered thoughts in there, more so than before. Think of TerrorVision as if it were an ‘80s horror movie talking about how the media in general is some sort of evil, demonic presence that is manipulating the opinion of the masses by spreading hate, fear, bigotry, terror, racism and all those fun things that make humans the most terrible thing to have ever happened to this planet. So, there is quite some stuff going on there that is not just the typical gore lyrics.”
As punishing and massive sounding as previous releases, tracks such as Vespertine Decay, the gruesome Squalor Opera and the monstrous Visceral Despondency demonstrate not only the brutality of the Belgian outfit but also the oft-overlooked musicianship that resides within Aborted.

The drumming of Ken Bedene comes at you with machine gun pace, the guitar work of Mendel bij de Leij and Ian Jekelis slashes with visceral intent and Stefano Franceschini’s bass just destroys. With an album cover conjured up by Swedish artist Pär Olofsson and guaranteed to give you nightmares, such is the terrifying imagery. Nearly 20 years since The Purity Of Perversion hit the airwaves, Aborted continue to deliver some of the most energised and pulverising death metal around. This is an absolute crushing album. 9/10

The Crawling: Wolves And The Hideous White (Grindscene Records)

Northern Ireland’s misery riddled doom/death trio The Crawling failed to impress me with their debut release Anatomy Of Loss although I did conclude my review with the line ‘The Crawling have potential. Whether they can achieve it is up for debate.’ Well, in sophomore release Wolves And The Hideous White the Lisburn City outfit have certainly taken a giant step in the right direction with six tracks of hideously heavy music designed to cave in skulls and breach castle walls. The title track sets the scene, pummelling drums, thunderous riffs and the harrowing vocals of Andy Clarke, much improved since their debut. Clarke’s guitar work is devastating throughout, adding a sinister edge to the rock-solid engine room of drummer Gary Beattie and bassist Stuart Rainey. 

Opening with the title track, the album explodes with the force of a tidal wave hitting landfall, and for the next 37 minutes proceeds to kick you in the head. Still No Sun follows, the disgust at humanity spat with venom from Clarke’s demonic vocals. Rancid Harmony is a lesson in gothic darkness, the crushingly slow opening pace accelerating steadily, reducing speed whilst retaining all the power and then once more moving forward, all the while maintaining a heaviness which could split the sky. Halfway in and all hell breaks loose as The Crawling add even more weight and any remaining life is slowly expelled through the sheer weight of this brutality. The riffs on this track are venomous. The more complex approach works superbly throughout the album, and a mature approach is a statement of intent. Wolves And The Hideous White is a massively impressive album, all flexing sinew and pulsing muscle and one which demands your attention. 8/10

Monday, 17 September 2018

Reviews: Ian Gillan, Master, Dead Letter Circus, Emperors Of The Wasteland (Reviews By Paul H)

Ian Gillan: Ian Gillan And The Javelins (earMusic)

Transport yourself back 54 years and a teenage Ian Gillan, yet to become the rock god with Deep Purple, is cutting his teeth with The Javelins, a good time rock n’ roll band who comprise guitarists Tony Tacon and Gordon Fairminer, drummer Keith Roach and bassist Tony Whitefield. Their one album was a selection of cover versions of tunes that were popular at the time. Speed forward once more, to 2018 and Gillan, now a veteran and real rock legend has reunited with The Javelins to record 16 tracks of old school rock n’ roll which sounds as fresh now as it did back in the band’s fledgling time together.

Recorded in four days in a studio in Hamburg, with just the basic instruments available, Gillan told Ultimate Classic Rock that having got the original band together, the band “kept playing in the style which was in 1962 and consequently when I’m listening to this, I think ‘My God! This is so authentic’. It sounds exactly as it did in those days”. With the addition of Don Airey on piano this really is a trip down memory lane. Do You Love Me, Memphis, Tennessee, High School Confidential, Save The Last Dance For Me and Rock n’ Roll Music all feature in a sixties style which was a feature of every café, high school and youth club back in the day.

It’s not metal at all, and most of our hard-edged readers will probably recoil in horror, but I really enjoyed this release. About as far away from most of the stuff we review as it can be, this is nevertheless a fun release dating back to a time when music was genuinely vibrant, exciting and the beating pulse of the youth across the world. 7/10

Dead Letter Circus: Dead Letter Circus (Rise Records)

I struggle with alt-rock most of the time. The multi-layered angst driven guitars, the mournful vocals and abstract time changes rarely engage my listening delight. Such is the position with Dead Letter Circus and their self-titled fifth album. Unsurprisingly, I was unaware of the band, but I was interested to discover that the Brisbane outfit released their debut This Is The Warning in 2010 and have built solidly on that ever since. To be fair to the Aussies, Dead Letter Circus is superbly crafted, with the musicianship clinically delivered. Kim Benzie’s voice, whilst typical of the genre, is crisp and clean, with the sorrowful vocals a perfect fit for the intricate delivery.

The guitar work of Clint Vincent and Luke Palmer is neat and sharp, with Benzie’s keyboards subtle. The album consists of ten tracks, the pick of which is Change, with its strong chorus and hard driven guitar work. Ladders For Leaders changes style a little, with a slower paced start, reminiscent of Linkin Park at their height. However, there is a fair bit of repetition and the tracks do tend to blend into each other. I may be being unfair on a band who are clearly hitting the right notes and if you like the alt-rock style this is worth checking out. Just not for me. 6/10

Master: Vindictive Miscreant (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Death metal legends Master have never featured in the Musipedia before so with the release of their much-awaited full length album Vindictive Miscreant what better time to wrong this right? Formed way back in the mid-1980s as Death Strike, the band, and it’s driving force Paul Speckman were originally from Illinois but relocated to the Czech Republic. With a stable line-up since 2003, where Speckman was joined by drummer Zdnek Pradlovsky and guitarist Aleš Nejezchleba, Master have continued to deliver their gargantuan vitriolic intensity with dogged single mindedness. Soaring guitars, unearthly vocals and a drum and bass combination that rattles the bowels of hell, Master is unashamedly old school; think early Death, Celtic Frost, early Sepultura and Obituary.

The album features eight tracks of relentless riffage, with the schizophrenic Sabbath riffing of The Inner Strength Of The Demon (Children Of The Grave anyone?) contrasting with the all-out frenzy of the opening title track and the 100mph rampage of Replaced. Speckman’s guttural delivery is without doubt amongst the evilest that exists within death metal, his strangulated gargle guaranteed to raise the hackles. This may be the band’s 12th studio release but with history and a trademark gritty sound on their side, Master once again demonstrate that they are amongst few bands who are able to continue along the path they carved. Flawless in execution, saturated with hunger, passion and integrity, Vindictive Miscreant provides perhaps unnecessary validation that when it comes to death metal, Master remain very much in the heavyweight division. 8/10

Emperors Of The Wasteland: Begin (Self Released)

Limited information available on these guys, but I can tell you that Emperors Of The Wasteland hail from Derby, formed in 2016 and are a four-piece who play stoner edged hard rock. Clear Sabbath influences run through their debut release, Begin. Whilst the Sabbath riffage is evident throughout, there are many other sounds contained in this release. See You Again finds the band in full Cult territory, with vocalist Al delivering an eerily Astbury performance and in fact it’s Astbury that Al’s voice is reminiscent of throughout. The slow burn of the title track, full of sludgy riffs neatly contrasts with the pacier opening tracks Under The Skin and Zodiac. First single Mickey Finn is a solid hard rock song with some strong work from guitarist Sid and overall, whilst Begin is unlikely to win any awards it is a perfectly decent debut album. 6/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Kris Barras Band

Kris Barras Band, Marc Pontin Group & Blackballed, The Patriot, Crumlin

On a pretty damp Friday night it was up to the venue that is becoming a favourite here at MoM Towers as I hit The Patriot in Crumlin which was packed to the gunnels from the off as punters and members of The Patriot's MC filled the room for the majority of the night. The venue itself is bigger than Fuel (the last place I'd seen KBB) and has more room to move around, it's also a damn sight cheaper! (Valleys pricing see?). As well as having a cracking, loud as hell, sound system which elevates with live gigs and it's probably essential with so many beautiful, beastly bikes outside.

With the room mostly full, Manchester trio Blackballed (8) hit the stage and hit the ground running, the hatted three piece groove machine started with what I like to describe as Steampunk stoner blues that's part latter day Zep mixed with Clutch. It's a great punchy sound that carried them through a set peppered with dark humour and big riffs. The brothers Gill plough away on guitars and drums aided and abetted by Tom Wibberley on bass. They warmed up the room admirably with the crowd really getting into their set as it progressed. I've seen Blackballed before supporting Federal Charm in Clwb Ifor Bach a few years ago, here though they had something to prove imbued with a fire that was reciprocated by the crowd in attendance. In a deafening flash it was all over and the applause like the Guiness filled The Patriot with a sense of warmth. Personally I'm not going to leave it as long to see them as I had before this show, they are very good live act.

Next up were the Mark Pontin Group (7) who again were a trio this time from Swansea, made up of Mark Pontin - guitar/vocals, Callum Morgan Jones-bass/vocals and James Garvey-drums/vocals, this was a bit traditional fayre as their music brings to mind that of Rory Gallagher, it's soulful blues played from the heart Pontin's vocals carrying a note of sadness all good blues players need as the songs are punctuated with screaming Stratocaster solos and nuanced playing influenced by folk and jazz. It was a good choice to have Pontin on second as he differed enough from Blackballed to keep the night fresh ready for the main event that was to follow.

That main event was cage-fighter turned blues rock hero Kris Barras (8) who since my last viewing in Cardiff's Fuel Rock Club is now the singer/guitarist for the blues rock supergroup Supersonic Blues Machine so with his star fast on the rise it was time to see how this had affected his stage show in smaller venues. There's certainly a new level of confidence as he took to the stage, strapped on his guitar and kicked off with Heart On Your Sleeve, the stomping Kick Me Down and the rollicking Stitch Me Up, the pace was high the crowd were in full voice from the first minute with Kris (who continued the hat wearing of Blackballed) peeled off tasty riffs and solos with ease while his vocals have moved up to another level entirely, although that may have been the clarity of the venue's sound.

The set was well paced with a storming cover of Fortunate Son coming near enough the middle to keep everyone on their toes, just before Propane and the Planet Rock favourite Hail Mary. If to support my point earlier the Kris Barras Band have that good mix of blues and hard rock, it's the sound that has made Joe Bonamassa a world beater and looks likely to do the same for Barras, especially with his knack for writing catchy, radio-friendly songs with soul to them that leaks into every note from his guitar and lyric from his mouth, just listen to Watching Over Me. Backing him up are the majorly talented Elliott Blackler - bass, Will Beavis - drums and Josiah J Manning - keys, the first two giving a rock hard under current as Manning matching Barras' pound for pound on the instrumental jam moments that crept into She's More Than Enough and Lovers And Losers.

Slick, soulful and with a right hook of hard rock the Kris Barras Band made sure that everyone in The Patriot was in the right frame of mind for a Friday night, a huge ovation followed the set with many queuing up to meet Kris who humbly stayed at the merch stand for a while after the show giving autographs and having pictures taken with the baying mob, who had between them emptied three kegs of Guinness according to landlady of The Patriot! With a promise of more tours next year catch him while he's playing smaller venues as arenas are beckoning. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Review: Voivod, Pig Destroyer, Our Divinity, Dishonour The Crown (Reviews By Paul S & Matt)

Voivod: The Wake (Century Media) [Paul S]

The Wake is Voivods 14th album, it comes 2 years after the Post Society EP and 5 years after the last Voivod album Target Earth. Voivod have had several different sounds during their career, so I was intrigued as to what was on offer from the Canadians. What we have is a fairly long (56 minutes), fairly progressive metal album. The album sounds great, really good production where you can hear proper separation between the instruments. The production is simple, very clear and this lets the songs shine through.

One of the first things that hits you about this album is the guitar. The sound is a little cleaner than you’d expect from your average metal album (this is not an average metal album), the riffs are so good, so full of energy, taught and tuneful. First track Obsolete Beings kicks the album off in great style, at times coming close to a thrash tempo, and as with all of the album melodic and brilliantly catchy. I’ve found that this is an album that gets into your head, I’ve spent the last 5 days humming pretty much all of this album. The vocals are very good as well, Snake sings, growls, screams and over the course of the whole album sound like 3 or 4 different people. As this is Voivod you have to expect a few curve balls. The use of strings on the tracks Inconspiracy and Sonic Mycelium, was a surprise, but a very pleasant one, adding a lovely melodious element to the album. Some of the guitar solos have a neo-classical feel to them, which again was unexpected, but works very well. It’s not all uptempo though, the track Spherical Perspective has a slower, slightly more mussing feel to it, which ends up being an enjoyable relaxed interlude.

I have really enjoyed this album. For a band that has been going this long, and produced the amount of material that Voivod have, to still be producing creative, innovative work like this is amazing. Even though the album is called The Wake, and considering the tragedy that this band have experienced, this album feels joyful. There is something uplifting and positive about it. I could have got this completely wrong, I might have misinterpreted it, but it makes me feel happy. I can’t think of a better recommendation than that. 8/10

Pig Destroyer: Head Cage (Relapse Records) [Paul S]

“We will not be held responsible for any hearing impairments or damage caused to you from excessive exposure to this sound” So says a posh English lady at the beginning of the intro (Tunnel Under The Tracks) to Head Cage, before it descends into a maelstrom of Alarms, Screaming and Industrial Noise. As a statement of intent to start an album, this takes some beating. In many ways it feels like a warning about the sonic nastiness that the band have in store for their listeners.

Over the course of their career Pig Destroyer have had several different iterations. There is the Pig Destroyer that does crushingly aggressive grindcore, there is the Pig Destroyer that does sickeningly heavy sludge, and not to forget the Pig Destroyer that dabbles in industrial. Pig Destroyer’s last album 2012’s Book Burner was straight down the line grindcore, this pleased the fans of the band that want them to keep on re-recording their classic album Prowler In The Yard. However, I get the feeling that the band found the reaction to Book Burner a little restrictive, and this album is a reaction to that. Head Cage is an aggressive, oppressive mix of all of Pig Destroyers different sounds. First track Dark Train is a minute long blast of furious grindcore, batters that crap out of you, and then immediately disappears. Circle River is a mid paced, aggressive sludgy hardcore workout. Circle River starts with a blast of electronic noise, before settling down to an angry industrial sound. Concrete Beast has a guest appearance from Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Kat Katz on vocals. The track is a lurching monster of a sludge song, incredibly unpleasant and with an off kilter rhythm that seems to be designed to put the listener on edge. Last track House Of Snakes is a 6 and a half minute, slow, angry crescendo to the album.

Head Cage is not an easy album. This seems to be an album from a band that is refusing to be told which direction to go in. There are places on this album where there are so many different riffs, it feels like the song is continually transitioning from one riff to another. It’s like the band don’t want the audience to settle or feel comfortable with whats going on. But, if you give this album time, it will make sense, and it does become more palatable. Pig Destroyer are treating music as an art form, they are experimenting, and this is a great thing. The band is challenging it’s audience, if you just want them to repeat Prowler In The Yard, then you are not up to the challenge. Difficult, but brilliant. 8/10  

Our Divinity: Paralysis (Self Released) [Matt]

Our Divinity are alternative metal band oozing with modern coolness fronted by the feisty Zara the three songs on this record are fully formed future live favourites the best being the title track which has a huge defiant hook and melodic guitars over layered synths and punchy rock rhythms. This five piece have a knack of writing catchy rock music that reminds me of the early Noughties bringing electronic metalcore (without the screams) together with catchy pop melodies, they were originally a pop punk band before evolving into Our Divinity, it means they are sort of like Lzzy Hale fronting Linkin Park capable of pulling off big heartfelt moments but also starting swirling pits. Displaying a maturity beyond their years, there's a lot to look forward to from Our Divinity. 7/10

Dishonour The Crown: The English Way (Self Released) [Matt]

Hey kids do you like crossover thrash metal that sounds like it has a problem with you personally? You do? Great stick on The English Way by Dishonour The Crown and get ready to have the ear bashing of your life! The band was formed by Ron D (Romeo Must Die) guitar and Tom 'Kingsize' Hennessy (Kingsize Blues), the idea was born out of frustration for what was happening in the world and this debut album is filled with rage and bile aimed at politicians and those in power, just listen to Contradictions which is an anti-austerity anthem that sees Tom barking at the injustice. It's not a record you will see Theresa May bopping too, in fact that's probably the last thing Dishonour The Crown would want. Chocked full of razor sharp thrash riffs and staccato guitars power tracks like Weakened To The Bone, ferocious thrash cuts like a blade on New Ways To Heal while towering the grooves of DTC take no prisoners. A band is never more dangerous when they have a message or an ideal and Dishonour The Crown are as dangerous as they come, fight the power and let anarchy reign. 7/10

Reviews: Doyle Bramhall II, Kingcrow, Smoking Martha, In Which It Burns (Reviews By Matt & Paul H]

Doyle Bramhall II: Shades (Provogue)

Making his debut for the Provogue Shades is the follow up to his 2016 album Rich Man which was his first solo album in 15 years. He's been busy in that time though spending his time as the sideman for Roger Waters, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint and T-Bone Burnett. More significantly, Bramhall he has also spent over a decade as Eric Clapton’s musical right-hand man and close collaborator. A noted singer, musician and producer Bramhall brings a lot of former employer into this solo record, so much of this record is in the same groove driven looseness of old Slowhand, the man himself even contributes to Everything You Need which is brilliant track that has master and student in perfect unison, sparse, wah powered, gospel union.

It's not all Clapton though, Hammer Ring takes the Southern blues of The Allman's, with the closing statement Going Going Gone featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band adding the Southern soul style. Searching For Love is a smouldering duet with Nora Jones where both of their voices intertwine as perfectly as the guitar and piano face off. Love And Pain has a fuzzy, garage rock of The Black Keys as does Live Forever. The unique guitar playing of Bramhall is incredible, there's no wonder he's so sought after by these big's names, it flows through him with a confidence that stems from natural unbridled talent, his vocals too are honeyed and filled with passion.

He's aided by bassist Chris Bruce, multi-instrumentalist/string arranger Adam Minkoff along with drummers Carla Azar and Abe Rounds, they are the sturdy backbone to expressive numbers such as the beautiful Break Apart To Mend and deal with all of the style variations on this record. With so many blues/etc guitarists trying to be the next Bonamassa, Trout etc Doyle Bramhall II is carving out his own legacy as a spectacularly gifted musician who has spent his career learning from the best. Pretty much a perfect album from an artist that finally seems happy in his own skin. 9/10

Kingcrow: The Persistence (The Laser's Edge)

Italian prog metal act Kingcrow knocked my socks off with previous album Eidos in 2015 so the anticipation was high for their next album. Finally it's come in the form of The Persistence the first album outside of the 'life' trilogy that concluded with Eidos and the band looked to broaden their horizons (not easy in prog) and move outside their comfort zone, having songs that retained the Kingcrow sound but moved it in a different direction. With their earlier records there was much heavier metallic sound, here it's lighter, more expressive, modern melodic soundscapes, think Dream Theater's Octavarium which was in tern inspired by Muse and U2.

Added to this I noticed some of the ambient textures that are used by Anathema and Steven Wilson, especially on the beautiful Drenched which is the first song on record, it's got a very modern prog riff at odds with the wistful piano, building into it's emotive hook of a chorus it's the first chance to rediscover the excellent vocals of Diego Marchesi he's got a brilliant range and adds a sense of urgency to Drenched but also a somber tone to Closer and the evocative Everything Goes built on the Cristian Della Polla's electronics and keys. If you listened to Eidos and you were expecting something similar then you won't get it on The Persistence it's a record of musical catharsis for the Italian band, unburdened by the conceptual nature of their previous albums they can play music that is cinematic, beguiling, uninhibited, contemporary and most of all majestic. If you liked them before then you'll embrace the change, if not then this is brilliant introduction to Kingcrow. 8/10

Smoking Martha: In Deep (Bad Reputation Records)

Aussie rockers Smoking Martha have signed a deal with Bad Reputation Records to finally get their debut album released in Europe and the UK. So what's it like? Well it's starts out with the steady groove of So Lonely which is a slow burning opening that shows off the sultry vocals of Tasha D, the whole album in fact is built around the smouldering sexy vocals of Tascha who sounds like a cross between Lzzy Hale, Maria Brink and Gwen Stefani, hollering and purring over the alternative rock riffs that Mick (guitar), Matty (bass) and Jordy (drums) lay down. From the jangling rock n roll of One Night, the walking AC/DC-like riffs of Follow, the bouncy What's Her Name, through to the acoustic sadness of Baby Let Me Go Smoking Martha display a breadth of styles and strong songwriting. Finally ready to be unleashed upon a UK audience the alternative rock of Smoking Martha is guaranteed to attract fans in the younger rock circles. 7/10

In Which It Burns: Beneath The Darkness Of Sky (Self Released) [Review By Paul H]

A tasty four track EP from Pembrokeshire groove merchants In Which It Burns comprising three original tracks and a brave cover. The band who are regulars on the South Wales circuit and who are well worth catching live. The Creed opens things up, a tight number which allows vocalist Wayne Mayhew to let rip with his strangulated roar fitting neatly alongside the lead guitar of Steve Flynn. 6341 threatens to tear a hole in the wall before the five-minute monster How Became The Rulers crashes the party. Solid, tight and well drilled, In Which It Burns even have the audacity to attempt Sepultura’s Roots as a finale. It’s a fine attempt, raw and boisterous. Much promise from a band who will hopefully get their big break in the coming months. 7/10

Friday, 14 September 2018

The Spotlight: Interview With Fabio From Serenity (Interview By Nick & Stief)

Interview With Fabio Of Serenity

Before their gig at Bannermans Bar, we were lucky enough to interview Serenity bassist Fabio D'amore, who was the primary writer of Lionheart.

Nick: So you're getting into the UK leg of the tour, how are you finding it so far?

Fabio: Yeah, everything is cool, I mean it's the first time we're doing a real UK tour because back in 2011 we played 3 or 4 shows in the UK supporting Delain and more than that, we've just played London all the time, plus Cardiff back then in 2012. Other than that, nothing has been done, so it's like the first time, basically new cities, Yesterday Newcastle, Sheffield, today Edinburgh. Yeah, it's a new adventure, let's say. We need to grow our fanbase here so yeah, it feels like being on tour for the first time.

Nick: Yeah, I've spoken to a few friends who are fans, and a lot of the time when I've said we're seeing Serenity, they've said we'd love to see them again, and they haven't come here for a while so it's good that you're trying to expand the range of places.

Fabio: Yeah, we're trying to. Actually, Scotland, it's always been the Cathouse in Glasgow, although I think the band has never....I think we were discussing earlier, there was something planned maybe here in Edinburgh, but it was cancelled when Georg had his ear inflammation in 2009.

Nick: So you're experiencing the new cities now in the U.K, are you taking in the culture and the sights as you go around?  Having a chance to see much of the cities?

Fabio: Uh, not really, as you know, when you're headliners you have plenty of things to do; Soundchecks, interviews, most of the time inconvenient parking [Laughs] Difficult weather, although it's the first day we've had such weather, although it's the UK. Today for example, I would have really like to have really liked to visit the city but because of this weather and stupid me, I forgot a jacket.

Stief: Yeah, we did the same, we had to buy ours.

Fabio: So yeah, unfortunately it was not possible, but it will be great. I mean back then, when we were a support act, most of the time, you have more time, you have to wait for the headliner to soundcheck and back then I remember visiting Manchester and Leamington Spa. That was great.

Nick: So you can eye up some cities when you've got some time off, maybe come back and see them in your free time.

Fabio: Yeah, definitely, and come back maybe with a bigger production.

Nick: Oh that'd be ideal

Stief: So speaking of going to different cities, how do you find the audiences in the U.K? are they different from European audiences?

Fabio: I think the British audience in general is, it's really passionate. Although we didn't have the biggest crowds in the world up to now, because it's the first time for us, so we have to grow our fanbase but nevertheless it was really, really exciting. Huge feedback even yesterday in Newcastle, with such a small audience, it felt like Wembley.

Nick: Yeah, you see it on the social media, the reaction. People really enjoyed it, especially Sheffield.

Fabio: Yeah, Sheffield was real good, but I have a pretty good feeling for tonight as well.

Nick: That's good! I think that as well, there's not a massive metal scene here in Edinburgh, so I think when there is a gig, people flock to it.

Fabio: I really hope so, I'm looking forward to it.

Stief: How would you describe your musical style to someone who's never listened to you before?

Fabio: That's always a tricky question, because you never know where to start from. I basically would say symphonic metal, very melodic with a lot of influences from classical music, and also the revival from the 80's and 70's sometimes, with bands like Toto or Queen.  Two elements, if you unite them together, it's somehow, we have a pretty good image.

Nick: Becomes quite epic, doesn't it?

Fabio: Yes, bombastic, as Georg always used to say.

Nick: [laughs] That's a good word for it.

Fabio:  Yeah, so, choirs, and live vocals is one of our highlights.

Nick:  Yeah definitely, I feel this brand of music in the genre, the vocals are always important, they're emotional, aren't they?

Fabio: Yeah, I must say we are all pretty good lead singers, so if people come all together, it works.

Nick: I think in Lionheart, that's even more obvious than maybe some of the previous albums. You hear more of the backing vocals become involved a lot more.

Fabio: Yeah, definitely.

Nick: So when it comes to symphonic/power metal, they say a lot of bands are compared to each other, and a lot of bands are thrown together. We've heard a lot of people compare you and Kamelot.

Fabio: I remember.

Nick: What would you say makes you stand out above the other bands? You probably touched upon it in the last answer

Fabio: Yes, I don't know if I dare to say standing above, as this is a matter of taste, I guess? But I guess we are different in this vocal aspect, I don't remember any Kamelot shows with big choirs made by the band itself, and I love Kamelot, but I guess we concentrate really a lot of time...you will see tonight, there is something special tonight for the Scottish audience. You will see, we really concentrate ourselves, working a lot on vocals, especially acapella. Really working, the four or five of us, depending if we have a female guest or not, working especially on vocals.

Because our instruments, Okay, everyone can play quite okay, and when we are together, we have to define this or that, but on the vocals, I must say, we spend a lot of time, defining 'I'm singing this, you're singing that' trying to find the combination. As you might understand, on the record, there's a huge choir singing, not only us, but other people involved then you have to reduce everything to four or five of us. which is not easy. [Laughs]

Nick & Stief: [Both laugh] Yeah

Fabio: So I also give a little bit of direction because I'm a vocal coach myself, so it's 'Andy does this, because he's more into this kind of range, I do the high pitched stuff, Georg is for sure doing the lead vocals, and Nick in this case is sometimes going up, sometimes going down, for sure doing the harsh vocals when needed' therefore you have a lot of combinations, so I think this is the aspect you were mentioning that may make us differ from the other bands.

Nick: Yeah, I'm glad you said that, as it's something we've definitely picked up on recently, so it's paying off, the work you're putting into it.

Fabio: Yeah, I don't know how many other bands are doing this, in the small/medium circuit like we are. Just remembered back then, I think they still do this, Pain Of Salvation, they really concentrate on this vocal aspect, but must admit it's not so common, everything goes into the playback.

Nick: A lot of bands focus on the riffage and breakdowns.

Fabio: Yeah for sure, song shape and so on.

Nick: You mentioned working with female vocalists, you've worked with a few in the past. Amanda Somerville and you've got Clementine as well. What's it like working with them and are there any plans to work with them again in the future as they obviously brought a lot to the albums they were on?

Fabio: I mean, I don't even have to mention Amanda, because she's always top-notch but what to say? I mean she's brilliant, she has always been doing great stuff for us, and I hope she does it in the future. Actually there would have been an idea to bring her live at some special event but I don't think it's easy to involve her.

Nick: She's involved in a lot of things.

Fabio: Yeah, and when the time is not matching your t-shirt [Gesturing at Stief's Avantasia t-shirt] with Avantasia you know? and family business, she's having a family so I don't think it's so easy for her, but yeah, we will try hard. One day maybe it happens, and then we can play live Perfect Woman and Changing Fate with her. As for Clemmy, I mean, she's been in the band in the past as a fixed member and now she's in Visions. We're touring with Visions Of Atlantis at least twice a year, in one and a half months, we're again together, I'm pretty sure she's going to be on stage with us for another song.

Nick: That's good to know. When you're picking the female vocalists or other vocalists to work with you, do you look for the vocals to fit the song? or do you work the album around vocalists?

Fabio: Depends if you mean only on the album or live?

Nick: I'd say album.

Fabio: Album wise, we for sure look for the right vocalist, and sometimes maybe it's not even the right idea to pick a female in the end, or the other way round; maybe there was a part where Georg was singing, and we say 'Ok, maybe this would have been great with female vocals.' I still remember, I mean maybe no-one could  ever imagine, but our single, Spirit In The Flesh where I'm singing the lead vocals, this would have been a female part. Back then I just had to sing the guideline for a possible female guest, but in the end it ended up me, because it was already good like this. [laughs] Definitely very difficult to sing, because it's very high, but this is my range.

Stief: How is it touring with Temperance and Alight.

Fabio: Well, everything is working great, I'm Italian myself so it's easier with them to communicate and have some little extra fun [laughs] I mean, the drummer from Alight, Mirko, is one of my best friends, and I know the guys from Temperance as well from other shows, and we will have to play some more shows in one and a half months for the Symphonic Metal Nights Part II tour. So yeah, it's very easy.

Nick: Yeah, with Temperance, we were coming to see you guys anyway, but particularly for Stief here, Temperance are a Musipedia favourite

Stief: We've followed them from the beginning.

Fabio: They're pretty good live. You will be astonished, because they are really brilliant, since a long time, we haven't heard a support act as good.

Stief: So you're touring the Lionheart album, We've noticed it's darker than your previous albums

Fabio: Would you say that?

Nick: Well, lyrically it's about the Crusades, and Richard Lionheart, and lyrically it seems to us a little bit darker. Would you agree with that and if so, was that something you were aiming for?

Fabio: I wrote most of the lyrics so uh...no, I don't think we have been aiming for a darker concept, but I guess it was just a matter of fact. As always we are, as you know, talking about historical concepts, but I really, really must say, I want to underline the fact there is always a little bit of creation behind it, so it's 90% actually what happened, but we were also not there. This is what we have been told by history books and so on. So, as a metal band, we have to try also to fit the concept into our music and vice versa and I always really want to think how in that situation Richard Lionheart was feeling.

It's the same process I did when I wrote the lyrics in Codex Atlanticus, the previous album about Leonardo DaVinci. It's the same thing you know; What we were talking about happened, but maybe not that very particular situation. We wanted to imagine something behind the story, there fore, it could be, I don't know, maybe the lyrics could sound or seem darker because of that particular theme, but honestly I wrote the lyrics, I wasn't paying too much attention about the crusades and religion, and I've seen comments from the US really offended, like 'Hey guys, you're doing really great music but your christian lyrics...' What? what are you talking about? This is not what I was...I'm even agnostic, so I don't really care. But I know history, and Georg is a history professor himself, so I think we cannot be called a Christian band. We're not having the crusade as our personal theme, it's just a situation.

Nick: Yes, exactly.

Fabio: I mean, I don't dislike the word 'dark', I really like it. If you got it dark, I think my lyrics were pointing in that direction, but not voluntarily. But if you mean 'dark' in terms of mysterious, reflexive  and I'll say, mystic, then I like it, but if it's dark, or some people interpret it in a religious way, then I don't like it.

Nick: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there, maybe the atmosphere around it is a bit more dark.

Fabio: Yeah, that's cool, I just wanted to make sure. Too many times I've been asked this question, and really, I pay attention to what the people say, you know to improve yourself, and I read some comments that were completely shocking to me because this is not what I was thinking when I wrote these lyrics, you know? I wrote them, not them, I know what I was thinking, yeah, it's really weird, and I sometimes like to point it out, if you don't mind.

Nick: No, definitely, it's why we asked the question as well, it's always interesting to know how people perceive your music, it's a shame that people get too passionate the other way that they...

Fabio: But even without thinking.

Nick: Yeah exactly.

Stief: They just see the words there and leap at it.

Fabio: So superficial, you know, I mean, if you get the music and if you like it, it means you're not totally superficial, but if you interpret the whole record as a christian record, then you don't understand anything.

Nick: They've not really listened to it properly.

Fabio: Or even read it properly.

Nick: You mentioned there the work you put into the album, I'm guessing you do a fair bit of research because you say about 90% of it is fact.

Fabio: Oh, we do, yeah.

Nick: How much time do you put  into looking into the history and researching it,  before you start putting the lyrics in?

Fabio: It's really not easy, because you know, having such a person like Georg being the lead singer and also a history professor, it's not easy to get to a point where he wants to go, because he really cares about having a clear image about what we are doing in terms of his profession. So everything has to be on point, although, it's power metal, it has to be cheesy sometimes [Laughs]

Nick: [laughs] Exactly

Fabio: But it is cheesy because of the melodies, not because of the theme. We are not native speakers, so we pick up words that sound great for us and define the concept. This is the time we have to put before everything is ready, this is the difficulty behind it and I have to say, it requires time. But once I have the vocal line from him, we discuss 'okay, that song has to talk about, I don't know, Jerusalem' then I know, I see the scene already. Actually, we have been in Jerusalem, a little bit before. We were in Israel in Tel Aviv, we visited Jerusalem, and then we had the idea of Golgotha and so on, so therefore I was already having pictures.

I have the theme from him, I have the vocal line, therefore the research can take a little less time, then I can make it. But sometimes, for sure, its longer because I'm not so keen in that specific theme, I'm not a history professor, my mum was, so sometimes I even ask her, and she suggests some points of view that maybe we didn't think about, therefore the research is taking a little more time. All in all, this is the most important time, before writing the lyrics, the theme has to be real clear.

Stief: and do you all discuss that as a band?

Fabio: Actually, not really, the main factor is normally Georg, as I repeat, it's also his profession, and he really cares that we are not saying bullshit.

Stief: Just not making every thing up.

Fabio: We cannot really make everything up, but a little bit of make up has to be there, because I think this is the fun. This is how we see it; This really happened, and I could place it in my own world of creation.

Nick: I'll probably go away and appreciate the albums even more now that I know the work that's gone into it.

Fabio: and maybe tonight, you can even think about it when you are watching the show, think about what I said, because most of the lyrics came from me on the last album, so you can maybe now understand them even better. I hope [laughs]

Stief: There are a few metal festivals around the U.K, have you shown interest in taking part in any.

Fabio: Actually I just remembered  we had one UK festival planned, but we had to cancel because AC/DC was down town with Axl Rose singing, and it was the same evening so they postponed to the day after, but we could not make it to the day after for another show therefore we had to cancel. This was the only occasion I remember about the UK. But for sure, I really would like to play a UK festival.

Stief: Yeah, we attend one called Bloodstock nearly every year.

Fabio: Bloodstock, I know, yeah.

Nick: I think that you would fit in really well there, there's a good range of genres representation, and I think a lot of people would appreciate you being at that festival.

Fabio: Definitely, if you can call the promoter [laughs]

Nick: We'll get a petition going [laughs] Are there any festivals worldwide that you'd love to play or anything that you're aiming to play in the future?

Fabio: I think Summerbreeze is one of the few we still haven't played, I wouldn't dislike it, it's also not too far from where I live, so it would make everything so much easier, because Wacken, you know it's great, but it's so far away [laughs]

Stief: We'll keep an eye out for that [laughs]. Even though it's only been a year since Lionheart's release and you're still touring it, have you had any ideas springing up for any new albums yet or are you just focusing on getting the tour over and done with.

Fabio: Actually, yes, a new release, but you will understand better tonight. There's something special planned for February, including another type of touring activity. You will understand better tonight, it's about acoustic. That's part of the special gift for the Scottish audience tonight, but then you will understand better.

Nick: So we're from Wales, as you know, and we're famous for our Sheep. We always do this at the Musipedia as a funny last question to end on. We have a selection of sheep and we just want you to pick your favourite sheep.

Fabio: [laughs] Okay, that's cool! [He looks at the selection] I like this one.

Stief: The Manx Loaghtan...it's the horns, isn't it.

Fabio: [Laughs] Yeah!

Nick: That's brilliant, well, we appreciate your time and we're looking forward to the show.